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House Hunting, Update 3 — It’s Official

13 Jun


It’s official: we’re homeowners!!! We closed on our first house last week!!! It was an anxiety-ridden whirlwind from the open house to the closing but we survived.  I can’t overstress how elated I felt being handed the keys as we left the closing; I wanted to scream I was so euphoric. We couldn’t stop smiling.


We even got a sweet Disney keychain in the deal (score)

It was a long, hard road to home ownership for us but I can’t say I have any regrets because we benefitted from everything we learned. (It’s much easier to say that in hindsight!) All that heartache served a purpose: when we saw this house, we knew we had to move fast, submit a really strong offer since there was a lot of interest, and write a really good letter to the sellers.  I have to thank my mom for this last tip actually.

Throughout the home-buying process, she frequently reminded me that “You never know the motivation of the seller” and to basically assume nothing about what they are willing to take as far as price. Selling a home can be completely emotional or not at all. You never know. And she also reminded me that you get the house your meant to have, which is exactly how I feel about our new place compared to the two others we nearly called home.

We’ve gotten a LOT done in the 5 days since the closing, but before I recap where we are, here are a few pictures from the closing, final walkthrough and celebrations last week:

IMG_7677Much more closing paperwork than I anticipated

IMG_7661Brian and Emilia walking the yard during the final walkthrough before the closing

IMG_7684Emilia making herself at home in her new home – no pants here!

IMG_7728Picked up some celebratory Prosecco (+ Cabot’s sundaes) to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary AND first full day as homeowners

IMG_7727First priority — get my plants to my new garden

We returned to the house immediately following the closing and started to slap paint samples up on the walls, unload the window boxes I planted weeks ago so they’d be ready to go up ASAP, and unpack the box of “Helper Supplies” we put together filled with things like:

bottled water and snacks
hand soap
paper plates and napkins
a First Aid kit
Tylenol and Ibuprophen
Hand towels and rags
Trash bags
An iPhone charger

Here’s a quick recap of the past few days:

My family stopped by shortly after for a walkthrough with my brother Kevin who’d not yet been through the house, and there were celebratory Starbucks’ Smore Frappuccios at some point — heavenly! We net two neighbors — Eileen and Nancy and Emilia admired every single dog that was walked in our new neighborhood from her perch, peering out the front screened door. At some point, I found time to paint the front door a gorgeous shade of blue by Benjamin Moore called: Spectra Blue. (Love how it turned out!!!)

My mom and I started to remove the 10,000 hostas  (really large, leafy plants) lining the garage to prepare the space for the garden that will be focal point for the coming summer. Brian and I met with one more floor guy who we loved, so we scrapped plans to have our families over to paint this past weekend, and had our oak floors refinished and stained. Don was nice enough to show we a few different stains since I could decide what I wanted and I absolutely love how they turned out.

Related to the floors: due to the timing of when we could be fit in for them, we ended up spending our first night in the new house a little sooner than we’d expected. We’d forgotten we had a Dave Matthew’s Band show on Friday night so it didn’t make sense to drive home to Watertown if we needed to be back at the house at 8 AM to let the floor crew in, so after a deep vacuuming session and some Swiffering, we just threw two twin mattresses on the dining room floor.  It was fun to sleep over in the new place before we made any drastic changes to it.

And today (Sunday) my mom and I managed to get the “focal point” part of the garden completely planted in about only four hours. I’m wiped, so so thrilled. It’s coming together! More to come. Stay tuned!

House Hunting, Update 2: Talking Paint

13 Jun

Edit: This post was written on April 18th, but I delayed posting until now just to be sure we actually got it. And WE DID!!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 9.07.42 AM

Our offer was accepted on the house and I think I was looking at paint samples within the hour. I’m so indecisive, I knew I needed a massive head start if I wanted to plan to paint before we move-in.

I’m leaning towards lots and lots of taupes and beige. I know — snore. But I know once the trim is all painted up with a fresh coat of white and all our beautiful home accessories and art are layered in, that taupe will provide the perfect warm backdrop for the cozy home I’ve been decorating in my mind for the past 5 years. So bear with me.

Gray is the “it” color lately so I’m tempted to steer clear, but it just looks so damn good. I know I should just paint every single room “Decorator’s White” and live with it and see how we feel at the end of the summer. But that’s so boring and safe. So second most boring it is: taupe.

I’ve always been pretty terrible at undertones, so I’ve been doing a LOT of research to learn more about that. This interior decorator had a great summary of how to approach whole-house color palettes for people like me who are thinking they want neutrals everywhere but don’t actually know what the hell they’re talking about:

I am a fan of most all color schemes when the percentages are done right. However, as popular as gray has become, put a bunch of your things together….couch cushions, area rugs, comforters, cabinets, etc. in the same viewing then pick a color that marries well with all of these elements. Never look at anything in isolation or you will have no flow or continuity between the spaces. Another thing, before you even consider picking paint, decide whether you want a cool color scheme or a warm color scheme. In simplistic terms, gray = cool and beige = warm. You want to aim for something close to a 70/20/10 for percentages but your first decision is whether you want a warm or a cool color scheme. After you make that decision, vastly dominate with something to avoid getting a 50/50 combination of colors. So beige could be a good choice for 70% (walls, carpet) then choose coordinating colors then your accents. Also factor in the undertones in your wood. Can mix cool & warm in a color scheme as long as you vastly dominate with something that is your 70%. People try to tell me ‘I only want neutrals’ but the truth is, you have to identify the undertones in everything you have or the room will fail. Ladies….you can identify with this using your foundation as a good reference…..there will be some with a yellow or a pink undertone. These things are anything BUT neutral, especially if you end up putting something with a pink undertone on top of something with a green undertone. You’ll look dead! Same thing happens in interior design. If you hold up primary colors next to paint, you can then identify the undertones. – Angelo Wilson-Keel, interior designer

A few of the colors I’m really gravitating toward are:

7bf1d5ed01f2f0ac_2998-w500-h400-b0-p0--traditional-living-room Manchester Tan, by Benjamin Moore

beach-style-entryAccessible Beige, by Sherwin-Williams
Interior by Regan Baker Design

revere-pewterRevere Pewter, by Benjamin Moore

transitional-living-roomShale, by Benjamin Moore
Interior by Martha O’Hara Interiors


House Hunting Update, part 1

13 Jun


*Edit — This post was originally written on April 16th, 2016, but I couldn’t publish it until now for fear of jinxing it. But now that the home is ours I wanted to share a recap of our house hunting fun.

living room_1
Guys. I think this is the one!!! I say that with a heaping dose of sarcasm and hopeful humor because we have had the most heart-wrenching home search you can imagine. The past two months have been the most challenging of my entire life, probably because it was largely ME doing the majority of our house hunting. While caring for our daughter. And working nearly full-time.

I wouldn’t have made it here if it weren’t for my mom’s help on both the child care and real estate fronts. THANK YOU, mom! This life-changing dream of ours to own our own home couldn’t have happened without your support and guidance.

bedroom 1So how did this happen? We’d had an offer accepted on a cute home in another town in early February. After what happened with the awful home inspection on the Stoughton house back in the fall of 2014—house #1—we decided to keep things much quieter this time around and not announce that we’d “bought” anything until the paperwork was official.

The location of house #2 was in a great part of another town and the potential for the 0.5+ acre yard had me drooling with garden ideas, but the place needed a complete cosmetic overhaul since it was absolutely covered floor to ceiling in wood paneling. We weren’t excited about the house really, more the idea of finally owning anything just so we could be done with house hunting. The price was right, it seemed like it had been well-maintained, and it was local to family for easy help with childcare.

Since we’ve found “the one,” my mom has repeatedly commented about a really sad moment after she saw me after our offer on that house (#2) was accepted. I think I’d asked her, Are you supposed to feel excited about buying a house? Because we weren’t really. We were just beaten down and tired of looking.

How sad, right?  Then we had the home inspection and everything came to a crushing halt. Termites. Structural issues. Cracked waste pipe. Plumbing issues. It was an absolute disaster. We almost walked away during the inspection it was so bad. Afterwards, we put together a list negotiables,  consulted some specialists like pest inspection agencies and three different structural engineers, then circled back to negotiate.

That’s when things got a little weird. We started to hear from the listing agents (there were two we worked with, which was strange) that there was fighting among the siblings in the trust and there was threatened legal action. I guess someone wasn’t happy the trustee had accepted out slightly low offer? So long story short, we thought we were in the middle of post-inspection negotiation when really, we were just spinning our wheels trying to make something work when we’re pretty sure, these sellers had NO intention of helping that happen.

Up until last week in fact, I was still holding out hope that whatever was going on would fall through and they’d come back to us, accept out reduced offer, and we’d get the damn place and we’d be able to continue as planned with the late March closing. But thankfully, I’d continued to house hunt on my own and saw house #3 come up in Norwood for under $400K and the rest, well… couldn’t have worked out better.

I should back up and say that house hunting probably wouldn’t have been such a headache for us if we’d had an agent. And that’s not to say we didn’t — my mom provided daily guidance and I couldn’t have done this without her incredible wealth of real estate knowledge.

We didn’t feel like we could work with an agent without knowing the town we wanted to be in, and that was something we just weren’t sure about since we wanted to keep the variable we were most tied to — cost — in our favor as much as possible. We’d even talked about leaving Massachusetts in the hope of finding a little more bang for our buck somewhere else, assuming our jobs could be worked out. So we were house hunting all over the state — looking in Dedham, Walpole, Medfield, Plympton, Halifax, Kingston, Duxbury, Norwell. All over.

Our new town wasn’t even on the list after a while because we’d found we were basically priced out of the town ages ago, kind of how we’ve been priced out of Watertown. (Side note: I WISH we could buy something where we live now. I’m seeing SO many single families get “flipped” into two families/condos and selling for $500-600K+. If I could swing financing a second mortgage, I’d snap up one of these flips in a heartbeat to keep as an income property. After almost 7 years in the area, I know what a steal it is to live so close to the amenities of Boston, while enjoying the proximity to the gorgeous towns we are bordered by: Newton, Belmont, and Cambridge — basically three of my favorite towns in Massachusetts. Even Brookline is accessible to Watertown! But, that’s a post for another time.)

kitchen_3Which brings us to now. We BOUGHT A HOUSE! It had only been on the market two or three days when the open house happened, so I ran down to see it last Sunday despite being the sickest I think I’ve ever been in my entire life. Imagine a combination of the worst allergies/sinus issues paired with whooping cough.  I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. To add to the fun, Brian was away on a work trip.

Still, I dragged myself out and the moment I walked in the door, I just knew. The hardwoods. The fireplace. The six-over-six windows. The LIGHT. It had all the charm I’d been hoping for but not yet found in ANY house we’d looked at. As I stood in the yard, I nearly burst into tears. It was perfectly flat, fenced all the way around and had the established trees I’d been longing for. It was the perfect blank canvas for all the gardening ideas I’ve been collecting over the years. Then I went to the basement and that’s when my heart started to race. It’s begging to be be finished. I’ve NEVER seen such high ceilings in a basement! And immaculate. And as a total bonus, there is an unfinished space on the second floor for whatever the heck we want down the road, with space above that for a pull-down attic. The house is very modestly-sized in terms of actual currently-available living space, but as far as the potential for refinishing down the line, it’s deceptive how much potential is packed into such an unassuming little cape.

The open house was absolutely packed with young couples, older couples, and even one young guy clearly looking for a “flip” property. I watched as one agent excitedly brought his young clients all over the home, pointing out where he’d bump out the kitchen and how they could add dormers on the second floor to bring in more light, similar to how the neighbors had renovated across the street. I was silently screaming, “Noooo, shhhh!!!” in my head at him and hoping no one else there would have that same vision for how to eeek out a little more potential out of this charming little house. I chatted with the listing agent to get a feel for what he was expecting and wasn’t surprised when he shared that he expected at least four offers that day.

In situations like this, there are a few ways to position yourself as a buyer. First, you can go in with the listing agent. We did this with our first home offer, on the house in Stoughton. You can lose your shirt if you don’t know what you’re doing, but after three offers on three different homes, and my mom’s guidance after years and years in real estate, I felt pretty confident with this approach. But ordinarily, I’d 100% have preferred to be working with our own buyer’s agent.

The advantage to placing your offer via the listing agent is that he or she has more of an incentive to push your offer through since it means he won’t have to share his commission with another agent.

Also, offer over asking. Based on my monitoring of the market over the last year, I had a really good sense of what costs what and where and what was selling. Leading up to finding this house, I’d found probably 4 or 5 homes I really liked that had gone under agreement within 2 or three days on the market. So it’s clearly a seller’s market right now and, as my mom had advised, you have to move FAST when you see something you like. So I didn’t mess around. As soon as I saw this house come on the market, I jumped. I knew that similar homes in this neighborhood were selling for $400K so I had a pretty good idea that it was slightly underpriced so it would sell quickly, so I knew to offer closer to what it was worth instead of trying to sneak away with a deal. Considering there were SEVEN offers on the house by noon on Tuesday, I’m happy I chose this strategy because we managed to stay in the running for a second round of bidding.

Finally, write a really good letter. Selling a home can be an emotional thing. Not always, but often, it is. I grew up in Norwood, so I know that the atmosphere of the town is very family-oriented. You don’t just leave Norwood. Especially if you live in the very desirable high school-area of town. So I had a feeling that a letter from a young family that spoke to what a charming house it the town I grew up in, near the high school I went to would help our offer stand out from the rest. And we got the house, so I think it’s safe to say — it worked! You have to be sincere though.

Anyways, that’s the story of how we finally bought our house. It feels totally different from the other two, but I think that’s probably because at this point, we’re old pros at this making-an-offer thing. I have our mortgage broker and favorite home inspector on speed dial at this point and know to ask about the systems of the house before anything else. This house has a brand new roof with a 30-year warranty! How amazing is that?! Considering the doozies we’d nearly purchased, it’s like night and day with this one so fingers crossed that the home inspection goes smoothly and we continue on to the purchase and sale.

We are SO EXCITED. Lucky number 3!